Runners, whether you call it your booty, butt, gluteus maximus or rear, one thing is clear: You definitely don’t want to neglect your backside. “It’s basically the focal point of your body,” says DailyBurn coach Leanne Weiner, a personal trainer. Strong glutes don’t just look good in Nike shorts — they also help support your hips, spine and pelvis, she notes.
While runners might assume they hit their glutes just by being on the move, it’s going to take a little extra effort to make sure your booty is doing what it should. Your butt isn’t just one big muscle. In fact, it’s the largest muscle group in your entire body, made up of the gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. The maximus is responsible for hip extension, while the medius and minimus work to stabilize the body (especially when you’re standing on one leg).
Runners might be particularly vulnerable to problems with their posterior, due to poor form, past injuries and the stress of pounding the pavement. And if you slack off on strength and mobility training, muscle weakness and tightness may gradually get worse. “Basically, some muscles are doing too much work while others are not doing their job at all,” Weiner says.
Lifestyle factors (like sitting at your desk all day) don’t help matters, either. Being seated puts your hips in a constant state of flexion, Weiner says. “Since our hip flexor muscles are working overtime, they form knots and become shortened. The gluteus maximus, which performs the complete opposite function, does very little and forgets how to work properly.”
That’s where strength training comes into play. By working your glutes, you can improve running form, efficiency, stride and speed — while also decreasing your risk of injury. Start with the reps prescribed below and as you get stronger, you can gradually increase your numbers. “All exercises should be performed at a controlled tempo, squeezing the glutes at the top of each move,” Weiner says. “Imagine you’re squeezing a million dollar check between your cheeks!”
6 Butt Exercises You Need in Your Routine
1. Single-Leg Sit-to-Stand
How to: Stand in front of a bench or chair, hands on hips (a). Lift your left leg a few inches off the ground, so you’re balancing on your right leg (b). Shifting your weight into your right heel and engaging your glutes, slowly lower your body until seated. (c). Still balancing on your right leg, rise back into standing position (d). Do three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.
2. Air Squat
How to: Stand with feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward, hands on hips (a). Keeping your knees behind your toes, shift your weight into your heels and engage your glutes to lower your butt back and down towards the ground (b). As you lower your butt, bring your hands forward into prayer position in front of your chest (c). Squeeze your glutes to return to standing position, bringing hands back to hips (d). Repeat for three to five sets of 10 to 12 reps.
3. Straight Leg Clamshell
How to: Lie on a mat on your right side, right arm bent at the elbow to support your head, left hand on your hip (a). Bend your right knee to 90 degrees, keeping your left leg straight (b). Engaging your glutes, lift your left leg into the air, until it is at a 45-degree angle to your right leg (c). Lower back down, tapping the ground, then repeat (d). Repeat for 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
4. Single-Leg Touchdown
How to: Stand upright, left hand on hip, right arm straight (a). Lift your right foot a few inches off the ground, balancing on your left leg (b). Squeezing your glutes, hinge forward at the waist, keeping your back straight and reaching down towards the ground with your right hand (c). Continue to slowly lower until your hand touches the ground, then return to standing (d). Repeat for 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
5. Glute Bridge
How to: Lie on your back on a mat, knees bent at 45 degrees, arms crossed against your chest (a). Squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the ground, until your torso is in a straight line from knees to chest (b). Lower your hips and butt back to the ground, and repeat (c). Repeat for 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
6. Donkey Kick
How to: Position your body in tabletop position hands under your shoulders, knees under hips, feet flexed (a). Pick your right leg up off the ground, keeping your knee bent, and push back as if kicking someone with your foot flexed (b). Lower your knee back down, without touching the ground, and repeat (c). Repeat for 3 to 5 sets of 10 to 12 reps.
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